USCG Treasury class cutter

The Treasury-class high endurance cutters were a group of 7 ships launched by the United States Coast Guard between 1936 and 1937. These ships were also collectively known as the "327's" as they were all convert|327|ft|m in length. [Silverstone 1968 p.373]

The 327's were designed to meet changing missions of the service as it emerged from the Prohibition era. Because the air passenger trade was expanding both at home and overseas, the Coast Guard believed that cutter-based aircraft would be essential for future high-seas search and rescue. Also, during the mid-1930s, narcotics smuggling, mostly opium, was on the increase, and long-legged, fairly fast cutters were needed to curtail it. The 327's were an attempt to develop a convert|20|kn|km/h|sing=on cutter capable of carrying an airplane in a hangar.

The seven Treasury-class Coast Guard Cutters were: [Silverstone 1968 p.373]
*USCGC Bibb (WPG-31), (original # 71) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched January 14, 1937
*USCGC Campbell (WPG-32), (original # 65) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched June 3, 1936
*USCGC Duane (WPG-33), (original # 67) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched June 3, 1936
*USCGC Hamilton (WPG-34), (original # 69) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched November 10, 1936
*USCGC Ingham (WPG-35), (original # 66) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched June 3, 1936
*USCGC Spencer (WPG-36), (original # 70) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched January 6, 1937
*USCGC Taney (WPG-37), (original # 68) [Fahey 1942 p.56] launched June 3, 1936

The final convert|327|ft|m|sing=on design was based on the Erie-class US Navy gunboats; the machinery plant and hull below the waterline were identical. This standardization would save money--always paramount in the Coast Guard's mind, as the cutters were built in U.S. Navy shipbuilding yards. Thirty-two preliminary designs based upon the Erie class were drawn up before one was finally selected. The healthy sheer forward and the high slope in the deck in the wardrooms was known as the "Hunnewell Hump." Commander (Constructor) F. G. Hunnewell, USCG, was the head of the Construction and Repair Department at that time.

Displacing 2,350 tons with a convert|12|ft|m|sing=on draft, these ships had a maximum speed of convert|20|kn|km/h. They had crews of between 120 and 230 depending on whether they were serving in peace or wartime. The ships were originally built with two open centerline 5"/51 caliber gun mounts forward, and carried either a single Grumman JF-2 Duck or Curtiss SOC-4 aft. Various arrangements of 3"/50 and 5"/51 guns and depth charge throwers were installed aft when the planes were removed in 1940-41. [Fahey 1942 p.56] [Silverstone 1968 p.369] Postwar armament typically included hedgehog and an enclosed 5"/38 caliber gun mount forward and Mark 32 anti-submarine warfare torpedo tubes aft. [Albrecht 1969 p.178]

The "327's" were also known for their high "Kill Rate" during World War II. "Campbell" demonstrated Treasury-class anti-submarine warfare suitability escorting convoy HX-159 in November of 1941. [Morison 1975 pp.108-109] With a kill rate of .57 per ship, the Treasury-class were the most successful antisubmarine warships. (US Navy Destroyer Escorts had a kill rate of .1) Treasury-class cutters served as leaders of Mid-Ocean Escort Force group A3 during the winter of 1942-43. [Milner 1985 pp.290-291]
* "Ingham" escorted westbound convoy ONS-92. [Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.139]
* "Campbell" and "Ingham" escorted eastbound HX-190. [Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.136]
* "Campbell", "Ingham" and "Duane" escorted westbound ONS-102. [Morison 1975 p.305]
* "Spencer" escorted eastbound SC-95 and westbound ON-125.
* "Campbell" and "Spencer" escorted eastbound SC-100 and westbound ON-135.
* "Campbell" escorted eastbound HX-212 and westbound ON-145.
* "Spencer" escorted eastbound SC-111 and westbound ONS-156.
* "Campbell" and "Spencer" escorted eastbound HX-223 and westbound Convoy ON-166.
* "Spencer" escorted eastbound Convoy SC-121 and westbound ON-175.
* "Spencer" and "Duane" escorted the final A3 convoy HX-233 eastbound. [Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.207] [Morison 1975 p.344] "Bibb" and "Ingham" participated in the battles of Convoy SC-118 and Convoy SC-121. [Morison 1975 pp.334-335&343] "Taney" served in the Pacific and was uniquely armed with four enclosed 5"/38 gun mounts in centerline positions where the Erie class gunboats mounted 6"/47 guns. [Silverstone 1968 p.370]

The class were called the "Treasury-class" because they were each named for former Secretaries of the Treasury. Originally constructed for typical Coast Guard search and rescue missions, the ships were all converted to amphibious force flagships towards the end of World War II.

The Treasury-class cutters proved to be highly adaptable, dependable, versatile and long-lived warships; most served their country for over 40 years. In the words of one naval historian, John M. Waters, Jr., they were truly their nation's "maritime workhorses. The 327's battled, through the 'Bloody Winter' of 1942-43 in the North Atlantic, fighting off German U-boats and rescuing survivors from torpedoed convoy ships. They went on to serve as amphibious task force flagships, as search and rescue (SAR) ships during the Korean War, on weather patrol, and as naval gunfire support ships during the Vietnam War. Most recently, these ships-that-wouldn't-die have done duty in fisheries patrol and drug interdiction. Built for only $2.5 million each, in terms of cost effectiveness we may never see the likes of these cutters again." [Waters 1967]

With the exception of the USCGC Hamilton (WPG-34), all of the Treasury-class ships led very long lives ("Hamilton" was torpedoed and sunk convert|10|mi|km off Iceland 29 January 1942). [Morison 1975 p.109] The "Bibb" and "Duane" were sunk as artificial reefs off the coast of Florida in 1987. "Campbell" was sunk by the US Navy as a dummy ship on 29 November 1984. "Spencer" was sold 8 October 1981 for scrap. The "Taney" is currently a museum ship at the Baltimore Maritime Museum, in Baltimore, Maryland and the "Ingham" is part of the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in South Carolina.

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